By Carla Zanoni
WASHINGTON HEIGHTS —Rainbow-colored streamers covered George Washington Bridge as supporters remembered a tormented college freshman who leaped to his death last month.
More than a dozen area residents walked along the southern pedestrian walkway an hour before sunset Friday, tying colored streamers to its railing, hoping their act would “promote acceptance” and “defy hate.”
The streamers were kept up on the bridge for more than 30 minutes, after which they were removed for safety reasons as requested by Port Authority workers.
Anna Araiza, 30, came up with the idea after learning of the suicide near her home in Washington Heights. She said she wanted to do something to show support.
“This is our own little way of doing something to honor him,” she said. “The idea that this is an issue for so many youth to me is very upsetting.”
Partners Perseo Logos, 42, and David Kirby, 44, felt moved to action upon hearing the news of Clementi’s death.
“I strongly identify with Tyler,” Kirby said, explaining that he had struggled with bullying as a gay youth struggling with issues of identity. “I’ve totally been right where he was and know what it’s like to live through that.”
The couple, who have been together for 16 years, felt Clementi's death and a number of other recently reported youth suicides were a call to action.
“I think we take it for granted that we’ve come so far,” Logos said. “Kids need to hear from folks who’ve been there. It’s important for us to tell our peers that it is critical to reach out and let kids know that it does get better.”
Washington Heights resident Elizabeth Lorris Ritter crocheted rainbow-colored streamers to place on the bridge.
“Before my daughter went off to college I crocheted her a blanket, so I thought I would crochet him a blanket too,” she said.
“This is a civil rights issue,” she added. “It’s an everybody issue.”